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The Service That’s Saving Restaurants So Much Money They Can Lower Prices

Cannon Green, a South Carolina restaurant that uses the Tock restaurant ticketing system.Cannon Green, a South Carolina restaurant that uses the Tock restaurant ticketing system.
Cannon Green, a South Carolina restaurant that uses the Tock restaurant ticketing system.Cannon Green/ Paulcheney.com

Nick Kokonas’ Tock system is based on a truly revolutionary idea—that to reserve a restaurant table, diners should have to pay for it in advance. His dream is that ticketing will replace the dance of deception and faithlessness that is our current reservations norm.

The problem with reservations, as Kokonas explained during Tock’s public launch last year, is that they lead to waste. Diners can easily pull a no-show, leaving empty tables. And with no reliable forecasting, restaurants can also end up with food waste and excess staff on any given evening. By selling tickets instead of taking reservations, restaurants eliminate much of that waste.

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The impacts can be dramatic, and in a new interview with Fast Company, Kokonas reveals that they can actually end up benefiting diners. Early testing of Tock in his Chicago restaurant Next, he says, eliminated so much waste that he was able to lower prices.

“Everyone thought we must not be popular anymore—that something must have gone wrong,” he says. “But we lowered prices because everything went right.”

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Kokonas shared his results with other restaurateurs at the time, and now more than a thousand are using Tock, particularly high-end spots featuring celebrity chefs and elaborate multi-course meals. Kokonas tells Fast Company he expects Tock, whose investors include Kimbal Musk and Dick Costolo, to process between $50 million and $60 million in prepaid bookings by the end of this year.

No word, though, on how many of his customers will pass their savings on to diners.